Can old chromite mines in India restart?

Can old chromite mines in India restart?

The Rural Development, Skill Development and Technical Education Minister in India has urged the Odisha state government to re-open closed and defunct mines in Sukinda chromites valley.

Blue View

India is a top-three global producer of chromite – the principal ore of chromium and key material that makes steel stainless. India’s chromite production is integrated domestically into ferrochrome plants, with the government curtailing exports of relatively limited ore resources through an export tax.

Despite being a major ferroalloy- and steel-producing country, growth over the last two decades has been lacklustre and far behind industry expectations for the region. With steel production growth now curbed in China, the attention is once again returning to India with the question if growth can be realised this time around.

For manganese alloys, India has stepped up since the early COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, as global economic weakness and high costs have allowed export opportunities for Indian smelters. For ferrochrome, the export levels have remained largely flat, though supporting some upside in stainless steel export, therefore being consumed domestically. However, the India Bureau of Mines recently reported that chromite mining is one of the few minerals in the country that are currently tracking a negative year-on-year growth. With more opportunities in stainless steel afoot with the energy crisis in Europe curbing output, India could look to capture more international market share, but it would require a ramp-up in chromite mining and ferrochrome smelting to do so.

Some old mines in India have been suspended for two decades following restrictions imposed by the Union Forest and Environment ministry. Effectively, all of the country’s reserves are cradled within the Sukinda valley, in Odisha, where state-owned Odisha Mining Corp (OMC) and steel major Tata Steel operate the majority of the remaining mines. With ample chromite reserves elsewhere capable of supporting ferrochrome capacity growth, there is a potential race brewing to secure market share of stainless steel supply chains.

  • 23 Nov 2022
  • India
  • Chromium
  • Steel & Alloys

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